New Local Film ‘Circa’ Rekindles the Art of Early Cinema Production

Words by Marielle Balmores

Photos by Janjan Capili and the Facebook Page of Circa

Featured Photo from the Facebook Page of Circa

“You have to give value to the past.”

circa dona atang

Warning: Minor spoilers ahead!

Cinema production in the 20th century was a very new concept to the public and those who grew passionate about it. Because of that, the processes behind it were manually done and were much more tedious as compared to today, making it more valuable and rewarding. 

This film Circa managed to capture that. Last Tuesday night, I managed to watch the premiere at Gateway Cinema 1, where the cast and a few surprise guests made an appearance. Circa is a film entry to the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino 2019 directed by filmmaker Adolfo Borinaga Alix, Jr. that revolved mainly around the life of the main character and former film producer in the early period of Philippine cinema, Doña Atang (Anita Linda) as her hundredth birthday is quickly approaching. Her one wish that she asked to come true was to meet again with her former co-workers and actors on her special day from her former company, Sunrise Productions. After all, reaching 100 years of life is an achievement that comprises all kinds of memories. With her old age hindering her physical movements and sometimes the ability to remember her memories, she is aided by her maid, Meding (Jacklyn Jose) who took over her late mother’s position. 

WIM Circa Premiere Screening 63


WIM Circa Premiere Screening 59

Adolfo Borinaga Alix, Jr., Director

Later on, we meet her grandson and aspiring filmmaker, Michael (Enchong Dee), who thankfully made it his goal to make this wish come true as he searched through her humble home and online for information about her past companions. Aside from the sense of nostalgia that lingers all around with established family struggles testing the characters’ individual patience towards each other, something about the eventual reconnections that Michael made served a much deeper purpose towards those who are not so familiar with the world of cinema in the past. Each story gives a glimpse of what it was like to work then and how contrasting the processes they did were to today. 

If you think about it, most of the films we grew up watching are digitized and easily found online now. As advanced as it is today, we mustn’t forget film’s roots in reels projected on the screen. With this, I liked how Doña Atang never had any of her films digitized in order to keep their authenticity. She even hired someone to clean the films of negatives so they wouldn’t rot and smell. Though it was to the dismay of her grandson since they wouldn’t be accessible to anyone today, it just shows that even if there is a demand for her films to be digitized since numerous people enjoyed them in the past, she never gave in to it. Almost like, if you want to see it, you must have a projector around prepared. Quality over quantity.

circa rolls of film


WIM Circa Premiere Screening 54

Enchong Dee

Another story I liked was from the former delivery boy who biked went his way to the cinema with new films where people were eagerly waiting for them. He was quite mischievous, sharing that one time he brought the wrong film and the whole cinema went frantic! Doña Atang didn’t talk to him for 3 weeks, chuckling at the memory of it.  For him to have a memory like that reminds us that there was a time where there were designated people tasked to deliver films in person since cinema production then again was done manually. Today, films can either be shipped from abroad or accessed online with a series of codes. 

WIM Circa Premiere Screening 46

Gina Alajar

WIM Circa Premiere Screening 86

L-R: Erlinda Villalobos, Jaclyn Jose, Ge Villamil, Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr.

The story shared by another former co-worker about Doña Atang being hands-on and strict about every task for her films also caught my attention. Nowadays, people only focus on what they are tasked to do, but Doña Atang would really check everything in her films from setting and music Thinking further, she took every shot into account since it would be difficult to remake if mistakes were made considering the time period she lived in. 

One big takeaway I received from this film that is very important to aspiring artists was from the dialogue between Michael and one of his aunts. Since Michael’s mother wasn’t so keen on his pursuing film because a career like that is “all passion, no stability,” his aunt told him not to listen to that. If you are really passionate about something, then do it regardless. When the topic of awards arose when they remembered Doña Atang’s awards for films, at first Michael made it his aim to win at least one. Yet again, his aunt shut that way of thinking down, saying that you should create the film because you want to, not for an award.

WIM Circa Premiere Screening 69

L-R: Ge Villamil, Jaclyn Jose, Gina Alajar, Allan Paule

You can catch Circa starting September 13 in the selected list of cinemas below. It also stars Gina Alajar, Laurice Guillen, Elizabeth Oropesa, and Ricky Davao with a special appearance from Eddie Garcia. If you haven’t seen the teaser trailer for it, you can check it here

circa list of cinemas

RELATED: Paolo Ballesteros and Christian Bables reunite in upcoming film ‘The Panti Sisters’

Are you looking forward to this film? Share your thoughts with us!

Leave a Reply